Changes Around the World
According to the London Evening Standard “Rules on traffic lights, priority at road junctions and street signs have all been updated in favour of cyclists by the Government after urgent talks with the Mayor.” This legislation comes in the wake of 13 cycling deaths in November 2013 and a “die-in” protest where hundreds of London cyclists laid themselves and their bikes down in front of TFL headquarters.
The BBC reports that cyclists are upset with being relegated to the lowest priority when it comes to budget decisions. The organizers demand “an integrated cycling network in London within the next five years… and a say at the top table.” They want 10% of each borough’s transportation budget to be spent on cycling infrastructure. The article goes on to compare the protests to similar events which occurred in the Netherlands in the 1970’s and paved the way for cycling to become a huge part of everyday life, particularly in Amsterdam, where the 780,000 residents own 881,000 bicycles.
Salt Lake city is no Amsterdam, but there is a growing bike culture. With the amount of pollution that is in the valley, the rising costs of vehicle ownership, and the new Salt Lake bike share, we’re seeing a smaller-scale, but comparable influx of cyclists on Salt Lake City streets. And with our steady economy and growing population, both bike and motor traffic can only get worse. Thanks to forward-thinking city planners, lawmakers, and activists, laws like the “3-foot rule” for passing cyclists on the road can continue to be passed and Utah’s roads can continue to be a safe place for motorists and cyclists alike.
What Can I Do?
While Utah is a bike-friendly place, there is still antagonism between cyclists and motorists on the road. This antagonism often stems from motorists and cyclists who either don’t know or don’t follow the rules of the road. It’s those careless actions that not only cause unnecessary harm, but may also seriously hamper the future of cycling in Utah. If we want to keep our state bike-friendly, then it falls on cyclists to educate themselves and their friends —particularly those new to bike commuting— about the law.
In a perfect world, motorists and cyclists would share the responsibility of preventing accidents. However, the way things are right now, cyclists have the added obligation to protect the future of cycling. The public will judge all cyclists by the actions of a few, so it’s more important now than ever before to think twice before blowing through that stop sign.
The first step is to familiarize yourself with the rights and obligations of operating a bicycle, particularly the laws and regulations specific to your city and county. Thankfully, there are a lot of resources to aid in this. The firm Christensen and Hymas has published a helpful guide to bicycle law and safety, and there is a pocket guide available for Salt Lake City cyclists at the slcpd website. You can also go to bikeslc.com for more information.
Once you’ve educated yourself on Utah’s cycling laws, it is time to start holding others accountable for their actions. If cyclists and motorists can police themselves then we should see fewer and fewer problems. Accidents can happen for any number of reasons, but we break the law most often because it is convenient. When you’re commuting tomorrow, remember that there is no amount of time saved that is worth a human life, and that goes for whether you’re behind the wheel or the handlebars.